Chi-Sang Poon

Principal Research Scientist
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Phone: (617) 258-5405
Email: cpoon@mit.edu
room: 56-046
MIT address: 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139
Department: IMES

Chi-Sang Poon

Principal Research Scientist

title(s)

Principal Research Scientist, Health Sciences and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

degrees

  • PhD in Bioengineering and Systems Science, University of California, 1981
  • MPhil in Bioelectronics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1977
  • BS in Electrical Engineering, University of Hong Kong, 1975

research interests

The Poon Lab is located in MIT Building 56 and has 4 graduate students, 2 postdocs, and 2 research staff members. The graduate students in the lab come from electrical engineering and computer science, chemical engineering, physics, and engineering & applied sciences at Harvard. Students from biology are welcome.

Research in the Poon Lab takes a multidisciplinary approach that combines biology with engineering and computational science to investigate the mechanisms of neural control at both the cellular and systems levels. The biological research is currently focused on neuronal plasticity as a form of neural computation, with particular emphasis on the roles of various ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion channels in long-term potentiation and depression of neuronal excitability. The engineering research is aimed at developing advanced nonlinear control and signal processing algorithms and microelectronic devices that can be used to model and analyze complex biological systems that exhibit chaotic, self-organized and self-tuning behaviors. An overarching theme of this cross-cutting research is to elucidate the biological intelligence that underlies homeostatic regulation at the cellular and systems levels, and to evolve novel artificial intelligence and engineering paradigms based on such biologically-inspired principles. Ultimately, we want to develop intelligent robots based on engineering systems that use biologically inspired control mechanisms to achieve stability. Two model systems that are now under investigation are respiratory rhythm and cardiac rhythm, with the goal of understanding how the feedback and feedforward loops operate over time and space to achieve homeostasis.

Respiratory rhythm

Our work on respiration focuses on mechanisms of control in neural and neuronal plasticity, in which physiological changes during development and in response to environmental stimuli produce adaptive behavior. This process is sometimes called brain calculus because it uses computing blocks that can perform integrated and differentiated processes on a neuronal level to perform high-order calculations. Different specialized populations of neurons in the brain work together to establish rhythms and make adaptive modifications to incoming stimuli. In this sense, they operate like electronic signal conditioning devices, in which high-level performance requires stability, speed, response to external signals and appropriate control loops. We are studying how neuronal networks are organized and integrated to produce and regulate respiratory rhythms.

Cardiovascular rhythm

Another project in the Poon lab studies control mechanisms that are used by the brain to regulate cardiovascular rhythms and maintain blood pressure. One critical problem in studying cardiac rhythm is distinguishing chaos (random fluctuations) from background noise so that we can identify subtle patterns in heart-rate variability that may be correlated with specific types of arrhythmia or sudden cardiac death. We have developed mathematical methods for separating chaos from additive noise, and we are using them to study the chaotic dynamics of the heartbeat. We hope to apply this approach to develop diagnostic and predictive tools for cardiac malfunction.

selected publications

  • G. Song, Y. Yu, and C-S. Poon. “Cytoarchitecture of pneumotaxic integration of respiratory and non-respiratory information in the rat.” Journal of Neuroscience 26 (2006): 300-10.
  • C-S. Poon and D. M. Merfeld (Guest Editors). Special Issue on: “Sensory Integration, State Estimation, and Motor Control in the Brain: Role of Internal Models.” Journal of Neural Engineering (2005).
  • G. Rachmuth, Y. S. Yang, and C-S. Poon. “1.2V Sub-nanoampere A/D converter.” Electronics Lett. 41 (2005): 455-56.
  • C. Tin and C-S. Poon. “Internal models of sensorimotor integration: Perspectives from adaptive control theory.” Journal of Neural Engineering 2 (2005): S147-S163.
  • G. Rachmuth and C-S. Poon. “Design of a neuromorphic Hebbian synapse using analog VLSI.” 1st IEEE/EMBS International Conference on Neural Engineering (March 2003): 1-4.